Laredo mom pulls up roots for the sake of her son with autism

Need for dayhabs is ‘huge’ says The Arc of San Antonio CEO

SAN ANTONIO – A single mother from Laredo, Sandy Martinez, said she has “a knot her in stomach” but has no regrets about pulling up roots and moving to San Antonio to give her 23-year-old son, who has autism, a better chance in life.

Martinez said she believes her son Noah will get it at The Arc of San Antonio, which has a 69-year history of enhancing the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“You could tell right away this is not a daycare,” Martinez said.

Dona Kotzur, president and CEO of The Arc of San Antonio said, “There are not many dayhabs across the state that do what we do.”

“The need is “huge,” Kotzur said. “There are a lot of families who are going without the support and services that they need.”

She said The Arc of San Antonio serves only 1,800 families out of 106,000 individuals in the Bexar County area identified as having intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Kotzur said the state of Texas covers 55% of its costs, but 45% remaining if funded through philanthropy.

Unlike adult daycares, Kotzur said The Arc of San Antonio works to rehabilitate participants in order to better integrate them into the community.

For instance, in Noah’s case, Kotzur said, “My hopes are that he reaches his maximum potential.”

She said it can be done by helping develop social skills which is why The Arc of San Antonio believes in giving their participants opportunities to volunteer or by simply going on field trips.

Martinez said she quickly realized what The Arc of San Antonio could mean to her son’s future.

As a former teacher who now has another position in the Northside Independent School District, Martinez said she believes “every child has the right to learn, the right to thrive.”

She said although there were somewhat similar programs in Laredo, “He was not given that opportunity back home.”

After her father became ill and could no longer take Noah to the gym or other places around town, coupled with the pandemic, Martinez said her son sat at home addicted to his iPad and channel surfing.

Martinez said she noticed Noah was developing obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

“It was getting out of hand,” she said.

Martinez looked elsewhere in Texas, but after her first visit to The Arc of San Antonio, she said, “I loved it. I just said, this is it. The structure was awesome.”

She said the decision to leave Laredo was a scary one.

“I’m still scared,” Martinez said. “Am I going to make ends meet?”

But even so she said, “I’m hoping to see a child that’s more ready to be independent.”

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.